G.I. Joe and Comics

The first comic I ever bought was in 1982, Marvel Comics' G.I. Joe, issue #6, an issue in which G.I. Joe goes to Afghanistan to make a deal with the Afghan rebels for a downed Soviet aircraft.

G.I. Joe, Issue #6

I still think that the cover art is awesome (but perhaps that's just imprinting), but I found the material hard to understand as a 7-year old. As an 11-year old, it all made perfect sense, and as an adult reading the issue now, the inclusion of the mujaheddin and their CIA operative indicates that Larry Hama was very much aware of the conflicts going on in the world. The writing still sometimes makes me cringe, as when he writes out the name and the acronym in same breath as well as the over use of exclamation points (which seems to end every sentence, unless it uses a question mark), such as "I'd rather be moving fat in my VAMP -- Vehicle: Assault Multi-Purpose!" and "This is our Rough Terrain Vehicle -- the AR-TEE-VEE!"

G.I. Joe, Issue #6

Back in those days, Marvel also had the budget to run TV advertisements for their comics:

In 1982, I had little idea of how to take care of a comic book, and as a result, the comic book was probably drawn on, cut out, or torn apart; I have vague memories of seeing it a few years later in the garage, having seen better days. I have no doubt that it likely ended up in with a pile of newspapers destined for recycling, or as a part of a school papier-mache project.

I had thought my affair with comics had ended there, a one-time experience that didn't really entertain me for more than the amount of time it took to read the comic and look at the pictures, which was likely less than hour.

Interestingly enough, it was G.I. Joe that got me back into comics; issue number 47, which to be honest, other than remembering that Wet-Suit on a boat is on the cover, I have very little recollection of the actual comic, but I knew I wanted to read the back issues and continue reading the series, which I did for a few years. Of course, going into the comic book store bi-weekly meant that my friends would introduce me to other series and I'd start reading those too. Wolverine had just gotten his own series, and Excalibur had just started up, which meant that I was reading through X-Men, as well as The New Mutants, and this continued up until I started high school, where comics had become speculation and investment and foil, variant covers; where comic book stores would need to put little placards up by comics which read "Limit 1 Per Customer" to stop the craziness of some guy going into the store and trying to buy out the store of a "hot" issue.

Those days are over, and I've found tons of those same "hot" issues in the bargain bins of modern comics shops. Because the market has moved away from the speculators, for the comics reader, the collected graphics novels are often a better deal, saving both space and money. Marvel has caught onto this, and has even put 40 Years of the X-Men out on CD-ROM. Manga is now collected and bound in graphic novel format, which is a vast improvement over the American style 26 page single issue treatment that used to exist.

I was reminded of all this because this weekend, I helped neverthere reorganize his comics collection; his collection of comics ranged from mainstream to eclectic to downright embarassing (Codename: Spitfire). He has over 10,000 modern age comics from his days of working at a comics distributor; lots of garbage, and a good collection of solid gems.


It's incredibly hard to explain just how many comics 10,000 is; even pictures don't do justice, as we never really had all 10,000 out at once, as we'd work on hundreds at a time before separating them out to be shelved, but this picture of 5 grown men sorting and organizing should give some sense of scale to the operation:



One of the oddities was this Terminator Pop-up comic:


The finished drawers for the keepers:


and neverthere sits with the books that are destined for disposal (around 6,000 comics):


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